Thursday 8 March 2012

Stalking to become a crime for 1st time with offenders facing up to 5 years in jail

Stalking is to become a crime for the first time, with offenders facing jail for up to five years and unlimited fines. After decades of debate, David Cameron will announce today that the Government is to change the law to protect tens of thousands of victims let down by the system. Currently, police must wait until  suspects commit another crime – such as harassment or breaching a restraining order – before they act. Scroll down for video Beauty consultant Clare Bernal, 22, was shot dead in Harvey Nichols by her former boyfriend Slovakian Michael Pech, 30, who she had dated for just two weeks. Pech on bail was awaiting sentence for breaching a restraining order and harassment of Clare when he shot her four times before turning the gun on himself As a result, only 2 per cent of stalkers are jailed, with the maximum sentence being six months if pursued under the Protection from Harassment Act. Mr Cameron will unveil plans to reform the law at Downing Street alongside Tricia Bernal, whose daughter Clare was shot dead by her former boyfriend in a Harvey Nichols store in Knightsbridge.     Also at No 10 today will be Claire Waxman, who was subjected to an eight-year campaign of harassment by Elliot Fogel. The former Sky Sports news producer stalked his ex-classmate for nearly a decade, Googling her name 40,000 times in a year and posing as a prospective parent at her child’s nursery. He was finally jailed for two years after breaching a restraining order. Tricia Bernal, pictured with her daughter Clare who was shot dead by Pech on September 13, 2005, will appear alongside David Cameron when he announces changes to the law today Mr Cameron will say today: ‘Stalking is an abhorrent crime. It makes life a living hell for the victims – breaking up relationships, forcing the victims to move house, making them feel they are being watched 24 hours of the day. ‘That is why we are criminalising stalking, to make sure justice is done, protect the victims and show that stalking is a crime.’ A Downing Street source added: ‘Stalking will carry a sentence of six months and stalking with violence a maximum of five years.’ Cross-party MPs who examined the existing law concluded it was not fit for purpose. Even stalkers  who had broken into victims’ homes or threatened to kill them escaped with community punishments and suspended sentences. The British Crime Survey suggests 120,000 people are stalked a year, with many claiming their concerns are not taken seriously by the authorities.   Some stalkers who continually flout restraining orders go on to murder their victims, according  to probation officers’ union Napo. CLARE BERNAL WAS SHOT FOUR TIMES BY HER  STALKER Beauty consultant Clare Bernal, 22, was shot dead by a stalker she briefly dated while working at the Knightsbridge Harvey Nichols store. Clare dated 30-year-old Slovakian Michael Pech, a former security guard at the department store, for just three weeks. But after they broke up Pech started following her, pestering her with phone calls, standing outside her house and bombarding her with text messages. Her mother Tricia Bernal has told how Clare felt she had no where to turn, couldn't sleep at night and became physical exhausted from the constant harassment.    He was arrested for breaking a restraining order and found guilty of harassment but while awaiting sentence he went to Slovakia and bought a gun. On September 13, 2005, just as Harvey Nichols was due to close, he walked up behind Clare and shot her four times in the head before turning the gun on himself. Mrs Bernal, from Tunbridge Wells, last night welcomed moves to strengthen laws against stalkers to prevent anyone suffering the way her daughter did.